Insurers plan in-depth look at personal injury claims fraud

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 31 March 2015:

The insurance industry through its recently formed Insurance Fraud Taskforce says it has grand plans to look at the personal injury claims fraud issue in depth.

The new taskforce – it was put together in December of last year – released a preliminary report last week alongside the latest Budget. The insurer-led group says it’s got its eye on four select topics in order to keep things both manageable and focused; all in all it says it’s going to be looking at the role of fraud data, policyholder behaviour, fraud deterrents in the claims process and the impetus behind encouraging fraudulent claims in the first place. Both the British Insurance Brokers’ Association and the Association of British Insurers are on board with the project, agreeing to update their fraud prevention guidance by the end of the year.

The goal of the taskforce is of course to reduce fraud when it comes to things like accident claims. Whiplash claims are especially injurious to the insurance industry, thanks to it being exceedingly hard to disprove a diagnosis and that the evidence of whiplash consists mostly in subjective, hard-to-quantify ways. The idea being bandied about by the taskforce is that most of the whiplash fraud insurers are experiencing isn’t from ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers or claimants that are making up injuries out of whole cloth but instead individuals who might have ended up with a legitimate, though minor, injury and make the decision to exaggerate the extent of their pain and suffering in hopes of getting a bit more than they would have from a personal injury compensation award than they would otherwise.

Of course that’s not to say that organised fraud doesn’t play a role as well. We’ve all heard of those ‘crash for cash’ schemes where a ring of scammers get together to stage or cause accidents; it’s so widespread that sometimes even public transport bus drivers get in on the action, but it’s usually easy to spot because most criminals are, to put it mildly, bloody stupid and end up making it obvious that they’re trying to pull a fast one.

Still, it remains to be seen what kinds of solutions this taskforce is going to be able to come up with. Honestly if you ask me I think that as soon as they plug a few holes in the dam another dozen will spring up.

Solicitors score major victory for sick holidaymakers

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 24 March 2015:

Personal injury solicitors hare secured a major victory for sick holidaymakers, securing a reward of more than £350,000 in personal injury compensation.

Back in 2012 a number of families went on holiday to a supposedly ‘luxury’ Egyptian resort, only to have their good times ruined by a rather nasty outbreak of a virulent gastric illness. It wasn’t just poor timing that ripped through the tour group though; in fact, the so-called ‘4 star resort’ was a nightmarish display of poor management, leading to meals of undercooked and cross-contaminated food being served to families. In some instances the horrid, unsafe food was even re-used from one meal to the next!

If that wasn’t enough to turn your stomach – and send you running for the loo – holidaymakers reported that raw sewage was spotted spilling up and overflowing from drains situated close to the children’s pool on the resort. Amazingly no one died, but guests were stricken with diarrhoea, Cryptosporidium and Salmonella poisoning.

Well, at least now a large number of the families with sickened children that were subjected to this nighmarish hellscape of a holiday have prevailed on their personal injury compensation claims. In fact, 32 families with children that fell grievously ill have reached a settlement with the tour operator responsible for the entire mess. The company at first denied all liability in the matter – can you believe it!? – but now a Birmingham County Court judge has signed off on the large packet of compensation, with some children receiving as much as £20,000 each.

I’m absolutely bloody disgusted by this one, ladies and gents. How do things get so bad at a resort that you’re re-using spoiled and undercooked food in the meals you serve your guests, not to mention the deplorable conditions of human waste spilling out unseemingly close to the children’s pool? It turns my stomach – much in the way that stomachs were turning at that resort, I’m sure – and I can only hope that those poor kids can go on to have a nice holiday somewhere in the future that isn’t filthy and horrid.

Personal injury lawyers to blame for compensation culture?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 17 Mar 2015:

Here we go again: apparently personal injury lawyers are to blame for so-called ‘compensation culture’ when it comes to increasing costs for them.

Aviva, one of the largest insurers in the UK, started complaining and whinging about how personal injury compensation claims brought by scammers – and of course all those crafty personal injury solicitors that chase down ambulances and convince all these barely-injured people to make accident claims against these poor, defenceless insurance companies. Yes, that’s right, there’s nothing but scammers and criminals working both sides of the equation according to Aviva.

Now I’m not going to say that there isn’t fraud when it comes to personal injury claims made against insurers. Whiplash claims in particular are a problem, and Aviva says that road accidents have decreased by 30 per cent while claims have increased by 62 per cent. But that doesn’t mean that the majority of injured Brits seeking compensation are thieves and liars!

Honestly, people get hurt all the time, and through no fault of their own. If insurers had their way they would never pay out at all, no matter how badly people ended up injured, but people deserve to be made whole after being injured through no fault of their own. In fact, Aviva had the temerity to complain that 96 per cent of the claims they deal with come from third party claims like injury lawyers.

They complained about it! Are they mad? Of course people seek legal advice after getting hurt! Nobody knows how to represent themselves in court against a defendant with massively deep pockets that can afford high-powered lawyers of its own. I’m sure Aviva would love to just chew up all those self-represented people who were legitimately injured and toss them out on their ear.

Honestly, injured people need the protections of personal injury lawyers so they’re not buggered six ways to Sunday by big insurers like Aviva. Maybe if the insurance industry wasn’t so bloody stingy people wouldn’t need to use lawyers to get what they deserve out of them. I know I’d never go head-to-head with an insurer without the biggest, meanest personal injury law firm I could find.

Why do personal injury claims take so long sometimes?

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 24 Feb 2015:

If there’s one thing that always makes people wonder, it’s how sometimes personal injury claims can take literally decades to resolve themselves.

In fact, if you were to look at the news this week you’d surely leave scratching your head, as one of the most prominent stories in the press was how 24 year old Annie Woodland, a woman who had suffered life-changing injuries in a near-drowning when she was 10 years old, had to wait nearly a decade and a half to receive her personal injury compensation award. That’s an incredible delay by any stretch of the imagination; sure, the wheels of justice might grind slowly, but 14 years? That seems a bit much if you ask me.

Or if you ask anyone, really. Even personal injury solicitors will wince and say that such a long turnaround is rather unpleasantly rare. So what caused the long delay? Well, the secret is, of course, in determining who was going to pay Woodland’s £3 million compensation award. The woman had been on a school trip to Basildon’s Gloucester Park Pool at the time of the injury, but she and the rest of the pupils were under the supervision of both a contracted swim instructor and a lifeguard for the facility; there was a conflict between whether Essex Council should be paying for her injuries or if the contractor should be.

Essex Council fought long and hard against paying the bill, stating that if they acquiesced it would mean that it could find itself liable for any number of accidents and injuries that occur on school trips even when pupils were being supervised by non-council employees and staff. The council went on to say that it would likely have to encourage fewer trips to be taken by schoolchildren as a result, something it called a ‘chilling’ effect that would negatively impact the education of children within the local authority’s reach. Meanwhile I think it just came down to not wanting to shell out that kind of cash, despite all the pain and suffering that Woodland has gone through since she nearly drowned.

So on the one hand I can kind of understand Essex Council’s position – but on the other hand, making this injured woman wait 14 years on a procedural issue? Kind of makes my stomach turn.

Man injured in motorbike accident wins £10m accident claim

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 17 Feb 2015:

Want a cool £10 million? No problem – just get yourself nearly crippled in a motorcycle accident and let your personal injury solicitors do the rest.

I’m just taking the piss, of course. No one “just” gets themselves involved in a serious road traffic accident in a bid to earn millions of pounds in personal injury compensation. In fact it’s likely to be one of the most excruciating and life-changing experiences of your life – much as it was for Macel Beasley, the 31 year old man who was so severely injured in a motorbike crash a few years ago his heart stopped a terrifying 8 times on the way to hospital via air ambulance. Not only that, but he was in a coma for two long weeks until he finally regained consciousness.

Meanwhile, once Beasley woke back up, it was readily apparent that the physical head trauma he had sustained in the accident had left him with the kind of severe brain damage that you simply don’t walk away from unscathed. I mean that literally, too – the poor man needs a wheelchair to get about for much of the time, and he’s in need of constant care. He’s also now the recipient of a terrible impairment to his speech – as if the rest of his long-lasting injuries weren’t enough to have to deal with.

Thankfully for Beasley, the other person involved in the accident that left him with these injuries – the driver of the VW Golf that cut him off and collided with him – was determined to be fully liable for the accident. That means he gets every penny of the £4.27 million lump sum payment in the terms of his settlement – and the yearly £175,000 payments for the rest of his life in order to help pay for his needs. All in all it’s around £10 million in value, his compensation award. Beasley plans to purchase a house that can accommodate his specialised accessibility needs and to ensure he has the round the clock care that he also needs in order to live as comfortably as possible.

How comfortable that will be is anyone’s guess, of course. I know that no amount of cash would ever replace the use of my legs or soothe the constant pain of knowing that I suffered severe brain damage. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it?

It pays to have friends in high places, like Wirral’s mayor

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 10 Feb 2015:

It’s proof positive of the old adage that it’s good to have friends in high places: the soon-to-be stepson of Wirral’s mayor just got off Scot-free.

Jack Nolan, the future stepson of the mayor of Wirral, ended up getting a conditional discharge over a drunken altercation where he assaulted a woman at a charity event. The 18 year old Nolan ended up only having to pay a nominal £250 personal injury compensation award to the injured woman despite the fact that he most likely terrified her.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say that it’s simply because Cllr Steve Foulkes is marrying Nolan’s mother Elaine this summer that he got such a white-glove treatment from the courts. It took a massive procession of character witnesses to back up Nolan, including head teachers and a procession of parish priests and other clergy, before district judge Michael Abelson sentenced him to paying the nominal fee on the accident claim. The judge said that applying any harsher sentences would have had ‘devastating’ effects on the ability for Nolan to pursue a career in the future.

Meanwhile, the event that got Nolan in such hot water, the Mayor’s Ball in October, which was held at Thornton Hall Hotel, saw him drunkenly threatening staff with a fire extinguisher and forks. Nolan admitted to grabbing the injured woman by her ponytail and forcing her head forward into a table all whilst shouting gibberish such as ‘you’re the one’ and other such drunken bits of wisdom. At the time, police were called and escorted Nolan into a van. The 18 year old insisted that his mother was the mayor and that she would sort everything out. He then sicked up inside the van.

As borderline amusing the story is, I’m rather well annoyed that this little bastard gets away with his actions simply because he’s got a so-called ‘spotless’ record. Are you truly telling me that the fact his mum isn’t about to marry the mayor of Wirral isn’t playing a role in this? If you do you’re bloody naive. And what about the injured woman who ended up completely humiliated by this teenager? Is that fair to her that all she got was an insulting £250 from her personal injury claim? Disgusting!

Swansea Council pays out nearly £60k over three years’ time

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 20 Jan 2015:

Three years, £58,000: Swansea Council just can’t cut a break after running afoul of more than half a dozen of costly personal injury claims.

There’s no rest for the wicked, apparently, as the local authority has had to face a barrage of personal injury compensation claims from April 2012 for claimants who have suffered slip-and-trip injuries on property owned by the council. The massive legal bill has already sparked outrage from those who have a bee in their bonnets about how much money the council is spending on accident claims, but Swansea Council says that as far as compensation bills go it’s not nearly as bad as everyone thinks.

Honestly – and I can’t believe I’m actually saying this – I have to agree with the local authority. A spokeswoman for the council rebutted claims that there needs to be a personal injury crackdown by saying the council investigates each and every claim made against it as thoroughly and objectively as possible in order to suss out whether the authority has any legal liability – and it’s only those that rise to the level of liability that the council pays out on.

What this means is that Swansea Council doesn’t like spending taxpayer cash on things like compensation payouts any more than people like to see massive figures in the tens of thousands go out to injured individuals. On the one hand, if someone is injured they have a right to be made whole if it wasn’t their fault, and the responsibility for that lies at the feet of whomever was responsible for their injuries. On the other hand, Swansea is a big place and you can’t possibly expect the local council to police every single inch of pavement to make sure that it’s not going to cause someone to trip on it and break their crown open. This means that it’s inevitable that a few claims are going to show up every year.

Honestly, getting off with less than £20,000 a year in damages for a region the size of Swansea is a bloody miracle if you ask me. It’s obvious that the local council is doing its job as best as it can, and I’m sure the councilors would be quite appreciative if people would stop taking the piss out of them for once.

Cameraman walks off with compensation after losing a leg

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 6 Jan 2015:

A 52 year old cameraman lost a leg in the wake of an accident and got to walk away with a major personal injury compensation award.

The career cameraman, who had a well-respected career for covering sporting events around the world for ITV, the BBC and other broadcasters, had been in Cannes, France to film a motorcycle race when one motorcyclist came round a bend, lost control, and ploughed into him. The result? Massive personal injury claims made against the insurance company of the motorcycle rider, made even worse that the cameraman had to have his leg amputated after complications to his injury made mending the severe fracture he suffered to his right ankle impossible.

The poor man, who has since been fitted with a prosthetic but can no longer work due to his injuries, says that he’s relieved that he can at least focus on his recovery and rehabilitation thanks to his team of personal injury solicitors going to work for him. The settlement amount the cameraman received is technically ‘undisclosed’ but let’s be honest here: have you ever heard of a compensation award for a motorcycle accident claim, especially one that resulted in an amputation of all things, not be in the tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we’re looking at millions in settlement money over a series of annual payments or something similar.

Can you imagine, though? Just doing your job, sitting on the pavement and capturing footage of the motorbikes as they go by, only to have someone career into you and send you to hospital. Then, imagine being told that your injuries are so bad that you’ve got to have your bloody leg amputated – how in the world do you cope with something like that? This cameraman must have some brass bollocks on him to not even be phased by such an experience; I’d be curled up in a ball on the ground and crying like a sad little schoolboy if the same thing happened to me, let me tell you!

Still, that poor man has earned every penny of his compensation. At least now he can get on with his life and have the funds he needs to adapt to his new condition.

Amusement injuries turn out to be no laughing matter

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 2 Dec 2014:

While most of us go down to the cinema for a bit of a laugh, one retired postman received injuries so severe that they warranted an accident claim.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll see stars: that’s exactly what happened to Ian Johnston when he ventured out to Teesside Leisure Park in Stockton this past March. The 64 year old hit is head at the Showcase Cinema door frame, allegedly triggering a pre-existing neurological condition that saw him in hospital for a mind boggling 34 weeks, unable to move nothing but his arms.

Johnston is still in hospital today, but his personal injury solicitors have launched a legal claim against NATL Amusements (UK), the operator of the cinema. The injured man’s personal injury lawyers say that the disabled access door just wasn’t high enough. Apparently Johnston had been on crutches at the time due to his pre-existing condition, which is known as chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, an ailment that I will never be able to pronounce or even type again, so I’ll just be referring to it as CIDP for short.

The pensioner struck his head shortly after pushing the button that activated the disabled access door. He then fell backwards, fracturing his spine in the fall ostensibly after striking his head on the too-low doorway. For what it’s worth, Johnston says he’s only 6ft 1in tall, barely a giant by any means whatsoever.

If you ask me, something seems dodgy here. How could there be such a short doorway for disabled access at this cinema? It doesn’t make much sense at all. It’s not as if the man was towering over everyone by several inches – and it’s not like he wasn’t probably hunching over his crutches as well. Unless perhaps he was wearing stilts at the time. Were these crutches extra-high? I suppose we may never know, but I do suspect that something isn’t particularly clear right now.

Well, Johnston just made his personal injury claim. I’m sure that there will be more on this particularly interesting incident later on, though if I had to concoct a story as to what happened here my money would be on some strange half-arsed attempt to comply with accessibility standards on the part of the cinema by fitting it with a shoddily-designed disabled access door. It wouldn’t be the first time a company would have taken shortcuts to save cash, would it?

Injury lawyers work hard for clients regardless of payout

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 4 Nov 2014:

Personal injury lawyers work hard for their clients regardless of the size of the personal injury compensation award at stake; it’s not the money that matters.

Critics and detractors of so-called ambulance chasing injury lawyers love to point out that these people are in it for the money, looking for the most lucrative clients to represent so they can line their pockets with court costs and lawyer fees. Meanwhile that couldn’t be farther than the truth.

For what it’s worth, personal injury solicitors are more about providing access to justice for injured people than they are trying to strike it rich. I mean let’s look at the news this week if you don’t believe me. Did you know that one factory worker just prevailed on his work accident claim after he was brained by a falling pipe – and that he “only” ended up with a £4,000 award. Not exactly big money going into the pockets of his lawyer there, let me tell you. The bloke missed something like seven weeks of work as his broken pate healed.

Still, that’s not to say that there aren’t massive payouts as well. Another case that grabbed headlines this week recounted how a massive £4 million personal injury claim case was resolved for a gravely injured man. The bloke in question ended up in a serious road traffic accident that left him with serious brain injuries that saw him having to re-learn how to speak and that drastically altered his personality to the point where the normally even-tempered man became, well for lack of a better term, a right bastrard.

Now if you ask me if anyone deserves a massive compensation payout in the wake of such a debilitating and life-changing accident it’s that man. It’s true that £4 million is quite literally a shedload of cash, but the man needs round the clock managed care, and unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that costs a serious amount of money – especially considering the man is only 26 and he’s got a very long life ahead of him.

And yes, the man’s legal team does of course end up being entitled to a large sum of legal fees from the settlement. But let’s be honest here – the lawsuit took eight bloody years to resolve. That’s a long time, and that’s a lot of court costs to recover!

British bobbies do their best to not get injured on the job

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 28 Oct 2014:

Being a member of a British police force is a demanding job, and sometimes these bobbies get injured in the line of duty – and this results in accident claims.

Work accident claims are common in almost any line of work, but when it comes to jobs that put workers at risk as an inherent part of the job it’s especially prevalent. Sadly, police officers often end up getting the short end of the stick when it comes to being injured whilst on duty, and this often means that there’s more than a few personal injury claims made every year by police personnel.

Usually police officers end up bringing claims against their employer, but in cases when a member of the public is responsible taxpayers can take a break. That’s exactly what happened to PC Anna Fielding when she waded into a personal altercation, only to be thrown to the ground by a Falmouth Docks shipyard worker – the bobby suffered a broken pelvis after she slammed violently to the ground, setting her up for months of painful recovery.

The perpetrator was dragged into court for his crimes, and he new he was nicked; he confessed to everything and ended up being slapped with paying personal injury compensation to the injured officer. On top of that he spent four months in jail and now has to complete 120 hours of unpaid work to pay his debt to society. For what it’s worth, he got off easy – I suppose he’s lucky PC Fielding wasn’t injured worse than she was.

Meanwhile, some cops won’t even sue their own police force if they’re injured in the course of duty. I know you think that sounds ludicrous but it’s true – there are some good coppers out there that actually do believe in what they’re doing. PC Dave Stubbs is one of those police officers. The Cheadle native said he wouldn’t even consider bringing suit against the Staffordshire Police after he broke his wrist as he tackled a drink driving suspect. In fact, the supercop just took a week off from work before returning, though he was assigned restricted duties as he continues to heal.

Could you imagine? This man must be a true idealist. A regular Nicholas Angel, if you’re a fan of Simon Pegg films as it were. There truly are good cops out there, and I can only wish the best for PC Stubbs.

Live in Lincolnshire? Hope you have a good injury lawyer

Personal injury news roundup: 7 days ended 21 Oct 2014:

If there’s one place in the UK that requires you to have a good personal injury lawyer before living there, it’s undoubtedly got to be Lincolnshire.

Think I’m just taking the piss? I’m not – it turns out that there was something like £150,000 spent by the local council in 2013 due to pothole-related damage. Think that was bad? Last year was almost just as bad with around £133,000 in accident claims made against the council. That’s right: the roads are so bad in Lincolnshire that they’re costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that last year saw Lincolnshire awarded the dubious honor of the pothole capital of Britain by Britannia Rescue. Things show no indications of getting better any time soon, and local councilors blame it on a lack of funds to fill in the thousands of potholes across the county. Though that raises a question from me: if there’s no money, where’s the cash for these personal injury compensation payouts coming from? Don’t you think that spending the money on road repairs instead of on court costs and legal fees might cut down on these ridiculous personal injury claims just a bit?

Apparently it’s been a generational problem, as councilors say Lincolnshire has been critically under-funded for decades when it comes to infrastructure improvements. As a result, pavements and rods just keep crumbling to dust, leading countless motorists and pedestrians alike to hurt themselves or damage their vehicles. Not only that but another cold winter is likely to be on its way, and that means the already ruined roads are going to just deteriorate further. There’s no way that the council is going to be able to raise the £5.5 million it needs to qualify for the same figure in matched funds the Government is offering it.

The end result is rather grim. Eventually Lincolnshire’s roads are going to degrade to the point where local residents will be better off trotting about in a horse and buggy instead of behind the wheel of a motor. I’m sure that even the ancient roads in England from before the fall of the Roman Empire were in better shape then – and for all intents and purposes are probably in better shape now!